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Nathaniel Branden

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Dr. Branden does phone therapy for $200 per 45 minute call. I emailed and asked if I could just have a discussion with him about Rand and Objectivism for 45mins for the same $200, they agreed.

We discussed a variety of topics, but, there is one thing he said that really surprised me. I asked him about Cryonics. The premise of freezing the dead indefinately until such time as medical science can bring them back to life and cure whatever it was that killed them.

Dr. Branden said "I would not want to live forever, I think that at some point I deserve a rest and want to die".

Do many other people feel this way? I just can't understand that at all.

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I am very supportive of cryonics, and I think that anyone who values life over death should support it too. However, I think my generation will be fortunate enough to never need cryonics because anti aging medicine seems to be on the way in plenty of time.

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The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the standard of value—and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man…Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life. (VoS : 1.The Objectivist Ethics)

It seems to me (& I’m just a neophyte Objectivist) that Mr. Branden does not hold true to the Objectivist ethics. Death != Resting.

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Dr. Branden said "I would not want to live forever, I think that at some point I deserve a rest and want to die".

Do many other people feel this way? I just can't understand that at all.

It is an example of the hazards of Brandenism.

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Dr. Branden said "I would not want to live forever, I think that at some point I deserve a rest and want to die".

Do many other people feel this way? I just can't understand that at all.

Wow, it sounds to me as if he is not enjoying living...like it's some kind of chore or task we must get through. Or maybe he's just an old man trying to comfort himself as he nears the end. He thinks perhaps it's better to be resigned to death rather than be one of those old people lamenting about the fact that people have to die...

Or as others have said, it may be a product of his philosophy. I don't know very much about the Rand/Branden split so I couldn't say. Actually, if anyone feels like it could you summarize where he differs from Rand? I remember hearing something about a business deal gone sour but I'm more interested in their philosophic split.

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Actually, if anyone feels like it could you summarize where he differs from Rand? 

Miss Rand was honest. Branden is a manipulative liar and a parasite that has exploited Miss Rand's popularity for decades.

For details, see James Valliant's new book, "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics".

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Brandens Criticism in Essay Form

This is Brandens criticism in essay form. Follow the link, then scroll down to the bottom of the blurb and click read article.

Im about half way through it. I'd like to know what others think. Branden claims that Rand didn't like much of contemporary science and was very skeptical of the theory of evolution, she found it a bit unbelievable, and so refused to study it.

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The essay isn't incredibly harsh. It mostly deals with aspects of psychology that Rand never addressed, because she admitted that she knew nothing of psychology so she never made claims she couldn't support. He just talks about how moral condemnation is appropriate but will never change the morally wrong person, thus some other approach has to be taken to get people to change, which Rand never endorsed.

And this passage struck me as interesting:

"Ayn always insisted that her philosophy was an integrated whole, that it was entirely self-consistent, and that one could not reasonably pick elements of her philosophy and discard others. In effect, she declared, “It’s all or nothing.” Now this is a rather curious view, if you think about it. What she was saying, translated into simple English, is: Everything I have to say in the field of philosophy is true, absolutely true, and therefore any departure necessarily leads you into error. Don’t try to mix your irrational fantasies with my immutable truths. This insistence turned Ayn Rand’s philosophy, for all practical purposes, into dogmatic religion, and many of her followers chose that path.

The true believers might respond by saying, “How can you call it dogmatic religion when we can prove every one of Ayn Rand’s propositions?!” My answer to that is, “The hell you can!” Prior to our break, Ayn Rand credited me with understanding her philosophy better than any other person alive—and not merely better, but far better. I know what we were in a position to prove, I know where the gaps are. And so can anyone else—by careful, critical reading. It’s not all that difficult or complicated.

This may sound like a trivial example of what I mean, but it’s an example that has always annoyed me personally. I would love to hear some loyal follower of Ayn Rand try to argue logically and rationally for her belief that no woman should aspire to be president of the United States. "

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Brandens Criticism in Essay Form

I can see why there are not a lot of Branden fans here. He does not seem to have any criticism of Ayn Rand's philosophy, only the effects that it has had on his patients or of her personality. I really had a hard time deciphering the point of his article other than to say "She was right, but has hurt some people's feelings".

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Here is a response I wrote several months ago to someone who said I should read Branden's essay.

Branden lists the following alleged hazards of Objectivism:

1) Confusing reason with “the reasonable” – The essence of his accusation here is that Rand was “close-minded”, and refused to consider facts or evidence that contradicted her position. What does he offer as evidence? He gives us personal observations about Rand’s attitude toward Evolution, ESP, telepathy and hypnosis. In other words, he is telling us he personally witnessed Rand being irrational on these subjects.

There is nothing in Rand’s writings to substantiate any such attitude. What she does categorically reject is the notion of existence without identity.

In her article, Philosophical Detection, Rand explicitly addresses the issue of a “closed” versus “open” mind, and properly identifies that the real issue is an active mind versus a passive mind. She makes clear which type she considers appropriate.

So, even it we believe Branden’s contention that Rand was not appropriately receptive to new ideas (of which he offers absolutely no corroboration), how does that become a “hazard” of Objectivism, when Objectivism teaches nothing of the sort? How is Rand's personal behavior with Branden -- which we will never be able to witness or verify -- constitute a "hazard of Objectivism"?

Branden attacks Miss Rand as a means of attacking her ideas – and we all know what that is called.

2) Encouraging repression – Here Branden asserts that Rand’s novels teach people to “repress, repress, repress”. This is accomplished, he says, because the heroes are repeatedly shown “ruthlessly” setting aside their feelings while the villains are shown as “rotten and depraved by diving headlong” into theirs.

But repression is not about setting aside versus indulging one’s emotions.

What is repression? In The Psychology of Self-Esteem, Branden says on page 79, “Repression is a subconscious mental process that forbids certain ideas, memories, identifications and evaluations to enter conscious awareness. Repression is an automated avoidance reaction.” Repression is essentially automated evasion.

The decision not to act on one’s emotions in a particular situation is not the same as repressing them – and Branden knows it.

Nothing in Rand’s novels suggests that evasion is a good thing to do. To the contrary, the evaders are the villains like James Taggert and Peter Keating who meet disastrous ends precisely because of their evasions.

Rand shows us in detail how James Taggert’s refusal to face his own nature leads to his insanity – while Rearden’s ongoing introspection over his own unhappiness – aided, admittedly, by Dagny and Franciso – eventually leads to his triumph.

Wynand suffers because he evades the nature of his desire not to believe in integrity, whereas Dominique finally achieves peace because of her willingness to re-think her premises.

Where in these novels is there any suggestion that evasion is a good thing? Miss Rand's heroes experience the most intense emotions imaginable -- and Branden thinks this teaches repression? Nonsense.

3) Encouraging moralizing – Branden says, “The most devastating single omission in her system and the one that causes most of the trouble for her followers is the absence of any real appreciation of human psychology and, more specifically, of developmental psychology, of how human beings evolve and become what they are and of how they can change.”

In the first place, Objectivism is a philosophy, not psychotherapy. It doesn't provide guidance for psychological counseling, just as it doesn't address a cure for cancer.

But more important, Rand wrote We the Living, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, The Comprachicos, Philosophy: Who Needs It, Philosophical Detection, Apollo and Dionysus, The Missing Link, The “Inexplicable Personal Alchemy” and The Age of Envy, just to list a few of her works that involve the mind, emotions, reason, conscious-subconscious interaction and behavior. Rand invented the whole field of psycho-epistemology. Rand identified the nature of our emotional response to art. She laid the foundations of a theory that explains how music evokes emotion. In the face of all that, how on earth can Branden state that she has “no real appreciation of human psychology”? It’s a monstrous evasion of the enormous effort Rand put into the study and explanation of human behavior.

All of her novels include characters in transition, either developing into something better due to their willingness to introspect, or deteriorating into something worse by evasion. How can Branden state that Rand has no appreciation for developmental psychology -- when she painstakingly illustrates it in character after character?

But the most egregious thing is that Branden criticizes Rand for “instantly” condemning as evil anyone that disagrees with her, noting that such condemnation does not encourage people to change. Read "The Letters of Ayn Rand" and then tell me you honestly believe that “instant” contempt was Rand’s primary response to those who disagreed with her. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What is most disturbing is that Branden has to know this.

4) Conflating sacrifice and benevolence – Here Branden claims that Objectivism does not put sufficient emphasis on the value of “kindness, generosity, and mutual aid, all of which clearly and demonstrably have biological utility, meaning: survival value.” But these issues are dealt with extensively in The Virtue of Selfishness and elsewhere.

How much more should Rand have written about this?

5) Overemphasizing the role of philosophical premises – This is basically just a rehash of Branden’s earlier claim that Rand had “no real appreciation of human psychology”, and my reaction to it is the same as before. He is wrong.

If Rand had believed, as Branden claims, that “human beings can be understood exclusively in terms of their premises, that is, in terms of their basic philosophical beliefs, along with their free will choices” she would not have spent years studying the nature of man. She would never have been able to create characters like Roark, Galt, Reardon, Dominique, Gail Wynand, Toohey, Cheryl Taggert, Francisco, Eddie Willers, Akston, well the list goes on and on.

It is preposterous to paint Objectivism and Rand as being that shallow. Nor does it make sense to think that those who study Objectivism are more likely to underestimate the importance of psychology than those who do not.

6) Encouraging dogmatism – Essentially, Branden claims that since Objectivist’s claim that they can prove every one of their propositions – when Branden “knows” we cannot – we have turned Objectivism into a “dogmatic religion”.

What does Branden give us as an example of an Objectivist proposition that we cannot prove? He cites Miss Rand’s opposition to a female president. This is another blatant example of attempting to discredit the philosophy by discrediting the philosopher.

Branden says, “If we are to champion the independent, critical mind, then the philosophy of objectivism can hardly be exempt from judgment.” Here Branden is erecting a straw man. Rand said, “Judge, and be prepared to be judged.”

Dogmatism is the uncritical, unthinking, non-judging, unreasoning acceptance of doctrine. The refusal to consider the possibility that “A” might really be “Non-A” is not dogmatism – and Branden knows it.

When I visit Objectivist forums, I hear a lively debate. What I do not hear is anyone screaming, “How dare you question Objectivism!?!”

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He said that he is still an Objectivist in the fundamentals. He differs from Ayn Rand mainly on the issues of psychology. Man worship (said she could never produce any evidence on why the is the role of a rational woman) Benevolent Universe (he said "try telling that to a kid with cancer" and her hatred of those who did not share her views.

He said that none of her charachters ever dealt with a person who underwent a transistion from irrationality to reason. Only of people who were already that way and always had been. He said she believed people either were automatically born that way and it could never really be taught.

He said that in the 1950's, after Atlas Shrugged she becamse very depressed because of the reaction to the book. Not the negative reviews, she expected those. But, the fact that none of the industrialist and men of the mind whom she championed and fought for in the book ever stepped up to defend her.

He said she became very mean-spirited and intolerant at that point and almost hypocritical.

He said the movie The Passion of Ayn Rand bears absolutely no resemblance to reality. It said it was a complete and total hatchet job of him and Ayn Rand.

There was a lot more. But, I am just giving you the main things he said.

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OismForever, If you were to take NB's criticism (from your conversation), summarize and re-frame it in as unemotional and benevolent form as possible, what would that summary look like?

To give you an example of the tone I'm seeking, I'll create a sample summary. This is "fantastic" because I have neither conversed with NB nor visted his web site. So, treat the contents as fiction, and focus on the tone:

Many people who read Rand's books get the wrong idea about how to live their lives consistently with Objectivism. They remember the parts that are so different from what they've always been taught, and miss the little bits that are similar to what they already know. They sometimes think that they must like skyscrapers, or that they have to live their lives fighting against an evil world, or that they must not have emotions. Some of them end up reading Rand's letters or listening to "Understanding Objectivism" and say to themselves: 'why was this not more explicit elsewhere?' Others, never reach that far, they conclude that the philosophy is too impractical.

I know this is not a summary of NB, what would be an accurate summary?

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OismForever, If you were to take NB's criticism (from your conversation), summarize and re-frame it in as unemotional and benevolent form as possible, what would that summary look like?

To give you an example of the tone I'm seeking, I'll create a sample summary. This is "fantastic" because I have neither conversed with NB nor visted his web site. So, treat the contents as fiction, and focus on the tone:

Many people who read Rand's books get the wrong idea about how to live their lives consistently with Objectivism. They remember the parts that are so different from what they've always been taught, and miss the little bits that are similar to what they already know. They sometimes think that they must like skyscrapers, or that they have to live their lives fighting against an evil world, or that they must not have emotions. Some of them end up reading Rand's letters or listening to "Understanding Objectivism" and say to themselves: 'why was this not more explicit elsewhere?' Others, never reach that far, they conclude that the philosophy is too impractical.

I know this is not a summary of NB, what would be an accurate summary?

I will do my best. And I am not endorsing or sanctioning anything he says. Some of it I tend to agree with it, others parts not at all.

Ayn Rand was a just a human being. A towering genius who had a profound impact on him and his life. But, her flaws became an obstacle to her own continued growth and her work following Atlas Shrugged. She was never interested in the "pathology" involved with a person who thinks in error. Therefore she never considered "curing" anyone.

Her work mostly just described these men as they were instead of the cause and possible cure of their flawed epistemology. The relationship between them started out as a mutual and positive thing in their lives. As she grew older he wanted to return the relationship to the previous status of "best friends". She took that as a rejection and saw him as another "Leo" the man who had deserted her back in Russia.

She felt if he could not look past their 25yr age difference that he was evil and nothing like her ideal man. Dominique and Dagny were beautiful, Ayn Rand was not. He felt her lack of self esteem about her appearance and age caused her to react the way she did when he tried to end the relationship. She just could not accept that the man she had dedicated Atlas Shrugged to would be incapable of romantic love for her.

He believes completely that capitalism, reason and rational self interests are paramount. He is very bitter about the way it all ended.

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I do. But then again I can see why the two parties involved made this a big issue. However, I don't see how that concerns any of us. It is not as if we are involved in any way with issues that these two had with each other back in the day.

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I can see why the two parties involved made this a big issue.
At the risk of prolonging the thread .... I can see why one would say that NB made a "big issue" out of it. He wrote a book. I'm not saying -- here -- that he was wrong to "make a big issue out of it". On the other hand, when you say that Ayn Rand made a big issue out of it, to what are you referring? Are you referring to the fact that she added a couple of lines to her books to say that despite the NB essays, which she retained in the anthologies, NB was no longer connected to her? Did Ayn Rand do anything else (anything that is publically verifiable) that could be considered as "making a big issue" out of it?

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